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Before Midnight (1955)

by Rex Stout

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Nero Wolfe (25)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7791728,025 (3.82)46
Fiction. Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. HTML:The scent of murder is in the air at the great Pour Amour perfume contest, and the incomparable Nero Wolfe is intent on sniffing out the killer. The foul deed is committed during the contest‚??s final round. Only five riddles separate the contestants from the million-dollar cash prize when someone finds the sweet smell of success too intoxicating to leave to chance. Now the contest creator is dead and the answers stolen from his wallet, and it‚??s up to Wolfe to follow the trail of clues to a source disturbingly close to home.

Introduction by Robert Crais
 
‚??It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore.‚?Ě‚??The New York Times Book Review
 
A grand master of the form, Rex Stout is one of America‚??s greatest mystery writers, and his literary creation Nero Wolfe is one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time. Together, Stout and Wolfe have entertained‚??and puzzled‚??millions of mystery fans around the world. Now, with his perambulatory man-about-town, Archie Goodwin, the arrogant, gourmandizing, sedentary sleuth is back in the original seventy-three cases of crime and detection written by the inimitable ma
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» See also 46 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
This may have been the toughest case yet for Nero to crack (that I've read so far), and it took him being humiliated in his own home to do so. Good read. ( )
  Javman83 | Sep 18, 2022 |
Before Midnight (1955) (Nero Wolfe #25) by Rex Stout. This is a case Wolfe should never have taken on. It involves and advertising agency, a perfume company, the contest the two conceive to foist the newest perfume onto an unsuspecting market, and of course death. It is 1955 New York, Madison Avenue is in its heyday and Wolfe and Archie get drawn into that world The contest is to solve a collection of puzzles involving something to do with perfume and name the correct woman in each puzzle. There are various rounds until the last which involves five people solving the hardest clues of the entire contest.
The first prize is five hundred thousand dollars while the total awards amount to one million dollars.
The up and coming ad exec who masterminded the contest is killed after showing the five remaining contestants a folded slip of paper that supposedly contained the answers for the final round. Shortly thereafter he is found murdered and the paper missing.
The ad company turns to Wolfe, asking him to solve the mystery of the missing paper and keep the ad boys from looking like fools, to say nothing of their client, the perfume company’s owner.
Wolfe is thinking a lot but getting nowhere. so he calls for a meeting, in his home of course, with the collection of people involved. One of those is poisoned directly in front of Wolfe and that finally gets his juices flowing at full speed. He even manages to lose sleep over the situation.
This is another nice journey down memory lane. The book, like so many of Mr. Stout’s work, has now become not only a quality mystery, but a first class time traveler’s journey to a more romanticized New York City. ( )
  TomDonaghey | Jun 22, 2022 |
4/9/22
  laplantelibrary | Apr 9, 2022 |
The Nero Wolfe mystery series, by Rex Stout (1934-1955)

Fer-de-Lance (1934)
The League of Frightened Men (1935)
The Rubber Band (1936)
The Red Box (1937)
Too Many Cooks (1938)
Some Buried Caesar (1939)
Over My Dead Body (1939)
Where There's a Will (1940)
Black Orchids (1942)
Not Quite Dead Enough (1944)
The Silent Speaker (1946)
Too Many Women (1947)
And Be a Villain (1948)
Trouble in Triplicate (1949)
The Second Confession (1949)
Even in the Best Families (1950)
Three Doors to Death (1950)
Curtains for Three (1950)
Murder by the Book (1951)
Prisoner's Base (1952)
Triple Jeopardy (1952)
The Golden Spiders (1953)
The Black Mountain (1954)
Three Men Out (1954)
Before Midnight (1955)

As a young person in the 1960s and 1970s I read many or most of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe detective series, randomly, without giving a thought to sequence. Over the ensuing years I forgot nearly everything about the plots, and indeed could no longer tell even from a synopsis whether I had read a particular title or not. My library list was guesswork.

What I never forgot, however, was the basic setup (a private detective in New York with an extraordinary mind, an extraordinary appetite, and an extraordinary household), the main characters (Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin) and principal supporting characters (Inspector Cramer, chef Fritz Brenner, operative Saul Panzer, and the rest), the nature of their relationships, and Wolfe's style of solving cases. Oh, and the brisk charm, unfailing resourcefulness, and steady competence of the first-person narrator, Archie.

When was the last time you remembered some hyped "unforgettable" novel or movie or character for more than a week? After more than 40 years, these fictional personalities were as distinct in my mind as neighbors and playmates from my childhood and schoolmates from my youth.

In 2016, I decided to (re)read the entire series, in order. In the midst of the storms of the past two years, they have been dependable comfort reads, and I've returned to them again and again, sometimes taking up several in a row. There's the list, above, of the first twenty-five, all I've read to date. Depending on how you count them, there are about as many left. So I'm at or just past the halfway mark.

With my dread of scarcity, I find myself already wanting to ration the remainder. Yet somehow that doesn't seem to suit the spirit of the series. The stories move right along, keeping us engaged, and they are never sentimental. The pairing of Wolfe the sedentary genius with Archie the man of action produces a chemistry that is usually effervescent and sometimes explosive. You might call them yin and yang except that they consistently overlap--in ends and means, if not in methods--and frequently abrade. Their sparring seasons the main dish of detecting and solving, without ever becoming pointless bickering. Even when one of them is deliberately goading the other, their reciprocal annoyance not only entertains us but also advances the story.

The novels are rooted in the culture of their time and place and reflect certain social attitudes that prevailed in that period but are no longer considered acceptable. Archie's cheerful chauvinism would produce howls of outrage among readers today but is not false to his milieu. Depictions of casual racism and the use of politically incorrect slang, judged by 2018 standards, would never pass muster with a twenty-first-century publisher. Especially in the early novels, there are a few passages that are hard to read, even for someone who is opposed to the rewriting of history.

Likewise, the passionate condemnations of communism that we meet in the novels of the late forties and early fifties may sound both extreme and quaint today, as Americans seem to reserve their fiercest vituperation for their fellow countrymen. Yet the strong personalities, the solving of perplexing puzzles, and the righting of wrongs constitute a satisfying mix that transcends the cultural boundaries of their own era.

In the nineties, a paperback reissue of the series incorporated new introductions written by various authors and reflecting on the series. One of them, Randy Russell, pointed out in the intro to Trouble in Triplicate that once one gets used to being dazzled by Nero Wolfe, the "brain in a jar," it's Archie that keeps us coming back, with his humanity, his humor, his admiration for Wolfe, and his confidence that by being an indispensable member of Wolfe's team he is also an agent of truth and justice. Sometimes a perpetrator does go free, when Wolfe, for reasons of his own, engineers it so; but the bad guys never win.

In a mad world, that's a very secure and comfortable place to come back to. ( )
1 vote Meredy | May 6, 2018 |
When the marketing genius behind a perfume manufacturer's promotional contest is found murdered and the answers to the contest's questions stolen, the advertising firm turns to Nero Wolfe to find the culprit. Solid entry in the series, if not transcendent, but some fine comic moments in the motley assortment of contestants gathered for the contest finale. ( )
  rosalita | Jan 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rex Stoutprimary authorall editionscalculated
Prichard, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Virtanen, SeppoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Not that our small talk that Tuesday evening in April had any important bearing on the matter, but it will do for an overture, and it will help to explain a couple of reactions Nero Wolfe had later.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Fiction. Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. HTML:The scent of murder is in the air at the great Pour Amour perfume contest, and the incomparable Nero Wolfe is intent on sniffing out the killer. The foul deed is committed during the contest‚??s final round. Only five riddles separate the contestants from the million-dollar cash prize when someone finds the sweet smell of success too intoxicating to leave to chance. Now the contest creator is dead and the answers stolen from his wallet, and it‚??s up to Wolfe to follow the trail of clues to a source disturbingly close to home.

Introduction by Robert Crais
 
‚??It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore.‚?Ě‚??The New York Times Book Review
 
A grand master of the form, Rex Stout is one of America‚??s greatest mystery writers, and his literary creation Nero Wolfe is one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time. Together, Stout and Wolfe have entertained‚??and puzzled‚??millions of mystery fans around the world. Now, with his perambulatory man-about-town, Archie Goodwin, the arrogant, gourmandizing, sedentary sleuth is back in the original seventy-three cases of crime and detection written by the inimitable ma

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Book description
With a nationwide campaign and competition offering the biggest-ever cash prizes, it looks like cosmetics giant Heery Products' new perfume, "Pour Amour", will make a big splash. It most certainly does. A week before the final answers are to be announced, Louis Dahlmann, the mastermind behind the campaign, is murdered. Nero Wolfe is not remotely interested in perfume, but he is keen on tackling the case for money. Lots of it.
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Legacy Library: Rex Stout

Rex Stout has a Legacy Library. Legacy libraries are the personal libraries of famous readers, entered by LibraryThing members from the Legacy Libraries group.

See Rex Stout's legacy profile.

See Rex Stout's author page.

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